Friday, February 26, 2010

Food Friday: Prep Work for Future Meals

Instead of a recipe today, I'm going to share my plan for another round of Freezer Cooking with Money Saving Mom.  As I've stated before, I'm not one to spend hours in the kitchen cooking for the month.  I usually make a double recipe of a dish instead.  However, last month I did more prep work instead of full meals and I found it very hand so that is going to be my focus this time too.  Here is what I hope to accomplish early next week when I cook along with everyone else participating in Freezer Cooking Days.

- Ground Beef - 4 lbs
- Chicken - cook up several breasts, marinate thighs/legs
- Pizza dough
- Muffin Mix
- Pancakes - I already have the mix made, I will be making a few batches to put in the freezer

Giveaway: Yophoria & Health Wise Yogurt

Hiland Dairy recently sent me some coupons to try out their new Yophoria Smoothies and Health Wise Yogurt. I was excited to try this because Hiland Dairy is in my backyard and I like to support local businesses. 

I first tried the YoPhoria Probiotic Smoothie.  I'm not a huge fan of yogurt smoothies but thought I would give this one a try.  I tried the Strawberries & Cream and it was ok - nothing out of this world but nothing awful either.  Something about liquid yogurt is not exciting to me but this was decent enough that I would pick one up again if it was on sale.

Next, I tried the new Health Wise Probiotic Yogurt.  I really liked this one.  I tried it in pomegranate blueberry.  Although a few more calories than I normally consume in a yogurt, Health Wise is still fairly healthy.  It is very creamy and does not taste healthy at all though.  Here is what Hiland Dairy has to say about this new yogurt:

Health Wise works to restore the good bacteria in your body, and with 15% of your DV of calcium per serving, you will be on your way to a healthier you!

I have two Yophoria and two Health Wise coupons for you to try!  To enter, please leave a comment below.  This giveaway will close at 9 pm CST on Friday, March 5 and a winner will be chosen via

For extra entries:

1. Subscribe to this blog.
2. Follow me on Twitter @LifeWithLess
3. Tweet about this contest.  

* Disclaimer: I was given an identical gift pack to try this product, however, no other compensation occurred.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Swagtastic Birthday

Today is a day to celebrate - Swag Bucks is turning 2, my best friend is turning 30, another childhood friend is having her twin girls today, and my oldest turns 4 tomorrow.  I think this calls for some celebration. 

First of all, let me tell you about Swag Bucks.  I've been using this search engine for about a year and a half and I earn free prizes simply for doing everyday searches.  My favorite prizes to redeem are and Starbucks gift cards.  I've used the Amazon cards for the past two Christmases to purchase many of my gifts.  I save the Starbucks cards for those few times I actually get out of the house alone.  I "treat" myself to a yummy drink and enjoy savoring every sip.  

To celebrate today, Swag Bucks has rolled out a new website and converted their points from 1 point to 10 points.

Of course, a celebration needs cake. Here is a picture of last year's cow birthday cake.  In the post is also a link to my favorite chocolate cake recipe.  This year, my son has requested a Thomas the Tank Engine cake.  I'm a bit intimidated by it since I'm still learning cake decorating but I'm also excited for the challenge.  I made the face yesterday and it is pretty good for a first time effort.  If I had more time, I would do it again as I learned so much while making it.  I do plan to share pictures if the cake looks decent.

Finally, I will be posting a giveaway later today or early tomorrow to celebrate.  Stay tuned to see what it is.

Happy Birthday Tonya, Katie & Izzy, Samuel, and Swag Bucks!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Reality TV Is Changing Our Family's Palate

You guys have heard me say many times that my husband is super picky when it comes to food.  He wants the same 5 recipes over and over and would be very content eating a cheeseburger and fries every day of his life.  I'm exactly the opposite.  I want to try new recipes and need variety in my menus.  At least once a week I try a new recipe but I try to make sure it isn't too far off from my husband's comfort zone.

Over the past year or so, my husband has become interested in several food based reality TV shows.  A few he came in on while I was watching and became hooked but a few he found on his own.  It always cracks me up because most of these shows are a bit more gourmet than he is.  After watching one particular show the other day, he commented that he would be willing to try risotto sometime.  I about fell out of my chair because he suggested something "gourmet".  I jumped at the chance and served it for dinner tonight.  He ate two helpings!!!  Thank you Kitchen Nightmares, Next Food Network Star, Top Chef, and others for helping me find one more food we can eat.  I'm hoping this is a baby step towards trying more new foods.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Food Friday: Mississippi Mud

This was a classic dessert in our house growing up.  It was usually made for potlucks or when friends were coming over.  It is very rich but delicious and my mouth is watering just thinking about it.  Enjoy!

Mississippi Mud

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup nuts
3 Tbsp cocoa
2 sticks oleo or butter
1 1/2 cups flaked coconut
1 Tbsp vanilla
Marshmallow creme
Chocolate Frosting

Cream together eggs, sugar, butter, and vanilla.  Add flour and cocoa, mix well, then add nuts and coconut.  Bake in greased and floured pan 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees.  As you take from the oven, spread a large jar of marshmallow creme over hot cake (miniature marshmallows can also be used and cake reheated until marshmallows melt). Frost when cool.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Dine on a Dime

We love to eat out but do not get to do that very often thanks to our current financial situation.  However, we do try to go out every so often and we have learned how to enjoy a good meal for next to nothing.  Here are a few tips on how to save while dining out:

Order a la carte. I can't stand to buy kid's meals when my child barely eats any of it but at the same time he is at a stage where he thinks he has to have his own plate.  Many times I am able to get him a small item or a bowl of soup for very little money.  This weekend my parents treated us to IHOP and our oldest wanted a blueberry pancake.  We asked if we could get just one for him and they were happy to oblige.  It only cost us $1.39 whereas all the kids meals were at least $3.99.

Drink Water.  Most places charge an arm and a leg for drinks so we mostly drink water.  We have discovered the few places around town where it is cheap to buy a soda or tea and sometimes we will splurge there.

Think outside the box. One of our favorite places to grab a quick bite to eat is Sam's Club.  We can feed the entire family, with drinks, for just over $7.  Then we roam the aisles and enjoy a few samples before checking out.  

Dollar menu.  The dollar menu is usually the first place we look when looking at a fast food menu.  We do not need the large portions that come with most combos and are completely satisfied eating off the cheaper menu.

Split meals or items.  My husband and I have very different tastes in food so this can be hard sometimes but I do it with friends every now and then.  Also, many times when eating fast food we will get one order of fries and split it between everyone.

Coupons. Search for coupons on the internet, newspaper, mail, etc to save on eating out.  We have several local coupon publications and I've discovered a few great places to eat simply by trying out one of the fabulous coupons in the publications.

Using these tactics, we are usually able to feed our entire family for under $10 at most fast food places and we try to limit it to $15-20 at other places.  We do not eat at sit down restaurants often due to two active children so fast food or quick casual is usually where we stop to eat.

What tips do you have for eating out without breaking the bank?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Comment Moderation

I've had to start moderating comments for the time being as I've been receiving some spam comments.  I hope to open it back up soon as I like the conversation that occurs with live comments.  Please do not stop commenting though as I love to hear from my readers.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: A Week in the Life of Our House

It is so easy for people to think that bloggers have an easy life and we have it all together.  Many bloggers only share the good things they do and never share those times where life doesn't go according to plan.  I've shared my struggles off and on so hopefully by now you realize I don't have it all together. Last week was a particularly crazy week so I thought I would show you a few of the highlights.  By the end, you will realize why it was pretty quiet around this blog last week.

* On Monday, the baby decided to only take 10 minute naps.  While he was fighting one nap, I took him to the basement so that his older brother could rest (he has a one hour rest time every afternoon).  When I came upstairs to attempt to put the baby down, I found my happy preschooler decorating the house in black sharpie!  He managed to color on 2 doors, a wall, the phone, brothers clothes that I had just taken out of the laundry, the exersaucer, several Thomas trains, furniture, and more.  There will be a post at a later time on how to remove permanent marker from just about every surface in the house.

* Behavior tended to be an issue most of the week but hit its worst on Thursday.  He was in trouble most of the day, including when he was at speech therapy.

* Also on Thursday, my husband was off work so he decided to leave the house to take an online test.  We both thought it would take an hour or two tops.  Five hours later he returned home!  The IT department of the school decided to down the server in the middle of his test.  He had to get a hold of IT and then they had to call his professor so the test could be reopened and not penalize him for quitting in the middle.

* Friday was date night at our church and we were excited. We didn't have much money to spend but both were looking forward to a break after a stressful week.  One hour before it started our oldest threw up over his entire room.  After we cleaned it up we called my parents and asked if they would take him for about an hour so we could at least get a quick bite to eat.  They agreed to it.  We finally get to dinner and just as we open the menus my husband gets paged in to work.

* Saturday I plan a nice meal to make up for the night before (by the way, my oldest was fine by morning).  It was my husbands weekend to work and be on call.  He wound up working 13 very busy hours.  We are thankful for the hours as we need the pay but we were both exhausted by the time he came home.  The dinner was never cooked either because it was getting too late.

*Apparently our youngest is going through a growth spurt as he has not slept the past two nights and wants to eat like crazy.  I probably wound up with 2-3 hours sleep total last night.

There were many other crazy things that happened last week but these were the ones that about drove me to the loony bin.  My hope this week is that I can get out of the house alone for an hour or two and refresh my soul after last week. Rest assured, there will also be some new, relevant posts on here this week too.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Organization 101: Laundry

Last fall I started a series on organizing and shared many tips I have learned over the years.  I'm going to bring that series back as I need help keeping on track.  Sometimes this will come in the form of a quick tip and sometimes I will have more in depth articles.  Today is a quick laundry tip.

Last week on Facebook, I was commenting that I have problems finishing laundry.  I have no problem doing laundry, it is folding it and putting it away that is the issue.  A friend suggested never letting the laundry touch the laundry basket.  Once the dryer is done, fold and put away the laundry right then.

I have a very small laundry room and do not like folding laundry in there but I am putting this into practice.  I've done a ton of laundry today and I'm doing my best to fold and put it all away as I go.  It is freeing as I don't have huge piles of unfolded laundry hanging over my head and when the kids need clean clothes, I don't have to dig through a laundry basket to find some.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sugar Scrub Gift

 That would be my son's hand as he felt the need to put his hand in every picture.

Need a quick and easy gift that doesn't look like you waited until the last minute?  We made these adorable sugar scrubs at MOPS last week.  You can adjust the amounts to fit any jar but aren't the baby food jars cute?

Basic Sugar Scrub

1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp oil (we used vegetable but use what you have on hand)
2-3 drops essential oil

Mix all and fit in a stage 2 (4 oz) jar - you may need to pack it a little .  To use, rub a little bit on your hands or feet and rinse with cool water.  Do not use hot water as the heat will melt the sugar before it has a chance to work.  Follow up with lotion and you will have very soft skin.

To decorate the lid we cut out a 2" circle from decorative scrapbook paper.  Apply with any adhesive.  Add a flower (or 2) using pop dots or glue dots.  Top with a button or jewel.  We made some with buttons and some with jewels that were leftover from another craft and all of them looked adorable.This is an easy way to use up materials around your house for a cute, quick, and easy gift.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Food Friday Revisted: Congo Bars

The Super Bowl is this weekend so I wanted to visit an old post and share the perfect dessert for the game - Congo Bars.  These chocolate chips bars are delicious and super easy. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

OAMC - The Final Result

I wound up getting a few things made this weekend for the freezer cooking days.  If you will remember, I was cooking on the fly.

Friday, I made two batches of banana bread. I first made a loaf and decided  I wanted some as muffins too so I made the second batch.  Having made this hundreds of times I barely looked at the recipe.  Oops!  Turns out I left the sugar out.  Luckily, the bananas were very ripe and therefore sweet so the muffins are edible.  They aren't my best but they are still pretty good.

Saturday, I was supposed to have a breakfast meeting but it got canceled due to 6" of snow so I made waffles for breakfast and froze the extras.  Then, I made a ton of rice.  I froze this in smaller portions for chicken fried rice. That evening my oldest and I made chocolate chip cookies.  Amazingly, a few actually did make it to the freezer but we did eat quite a few of them.

I wanted to cook a few things Sunday but it didn't happen.  On Monday I set out to make taco bake but after I browned the ground beef I realized I was out of tomato sauce.  I froze the ground beef, green peppers, and onion mixture and I will finish the casserole another day.  I also browned up a bunch more ground beef for the freezer.  It makes weeknight cooking so much easier when I have cooked meat on hand.

I'm hoping to get pizza dough made sometime this week and then I'm done for awhile.  Yes, I could have done all of this at one time but I broke it up and simply added another task while I was cooking a regular meal.  It meant smaller amounts of time in the kitchen, yet I still accomplished some tasks that will help me out throughout the month.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Living on Even Less

Just when you think life is starting to ease up a bit, God decides He isn't done using you yet. We are learning this lesson the hard way. My husband found out last week that his main job lost a steady client and his hours are being cut again. This change will take place sometime this month but we are not sure when exactly.

For those who are new here, let me give a quick synopsis of our story.

November 2007 - husband is working 2 part time jobs for his company to equal a full time job. One of the jobs is cut leaving him working on average 3 days a week.
August 2009 - after close to 2 years of living on a very limited income, a great part time job opportunity comes up.  Involves nights and weekends but we quickly adjust.
February 2010 - first job cuts down to an average of one day a week.  Looks like second job will become first job for the time being.

We are praising God for the part time job my husband took last August because it averages out to about what we were making with him working three days a week.  It varies somewhat though because he works in the medical field and the majority of his hours are on call.  If he doesn't get called in, we make very little. We know we can survive on the second job but it is not easy. We finally felt like we could enjoy life a little more and also work towards our financial goals but we are back to survival mode.

On the positive side, my husband is graduating from college in May.  We have paid for his classes out of pocket for two years now so that expense is now behind us as I paid his final semester a few weeks ago.  Also, he will have more time to study since he won't be working as much.  He is taking an overload this semester so the time will be nice.

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